Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Van Velsor, Naomi [Amy] Williams [d. 1826]
Author:
Bawcom, Amy
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Affectionately known as "Amy," Naomi Williams was Whitman's maternal grandmother. She married Cornelius Van Velsor and in 1795 gave birth to the daughter, Louisa, who would become Whitman's mother. According to John Burroughs, Amy "was a Friend, or Quakeress, of sweet sensible character, housewifely proclivities, and deeply intuitive and spiritual" (qtd. in Whitman 9). Her death in February 1826 profoundly saddened the six-year-old Walt. However, he would inherit from Amy Van Velsor a sympathy with Quaker customs as well as a number of family stories, some of which would find their way into Leaves of Grass. For instance, in section 35 of "Song of Myself," Whitman recounts a tale involving Amy's father, Captain John Williams, who served under John Paul Jones in an "old-time sea-fight" on 23 September 1779, a battle between Jones's ship, the Bon Homme Richard, and the British Serapis

Bibliography 

Allen, Gay Wilson. The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman. 1955. Rev. ed. 1967. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985. 

Whitman, Walt. Specimen Days. Vol. 1 of Prose Works 1892. Ed. Floyd Stovall. New York: New York UP, 1963.


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